I personally believe as a human being we should be able to freely speak out minds about everything. However, just because we have an opinion on a topic doesn’t mean it is correct. Where we tend to go wrong is not allowing others to express their opinions & beliefs, more so not allowing them to have their own opinion and accepting them & their opinion for what it is. For some reason if another person’s opinion differs from our own we immediately want to debate and make them see the better or correct opinion, which is ours.
Why would someone want to run for an elected official position? We all would hope that they feel they are servants to the public. We all would hope that each and every candidate running for office wants to improve the quality of life for their citizens. We all would hope that they were running with integrity, honesty, bravery, pride and with a sound mind for the community at large. We all would hope they would have the courage to stand on their own two feet and behind the decisions they make for the community. Early in American History and the democratic process this was true. However, what we have noticed over time is there is another kind of candidate. There are those who run because they want a title, benefits, the power of the position, control, because they are part of the “good ole boy system” and because they are generously rewarded for their voting on certain issues by companies & outsiders of the community. Some even run for office for self-promotion and self-gain. I find passion on a particular issue usually draws candidates for an elected seat to the front lines or if it is an issue that affects them directly.
Passion on issues is what has changed our country for the better. There clearly was a passion on slavery, a passion on voting rights among minorities & woman. At a national level, currently we have passion in our country over health-care, same-sex marriage, global warming, and budget ceilings and military involvement in other countries. At many local levels in Gwinnett County passion includes improving our schools, trash, stadium, infrastructure, quality of life concerns, budget concerns, taxes such as SPLOSTS & property taxes, housing and downtown developments issues & growth.
In the small towns throughout Gwinnett County and at county level we seem to have elections every year, as each candidate seat falls differently than the others. But it doesn’t stop at local elections you have House Representatives and State Senators, Judicial seats and many more up the chain of command before you get to the White House. Sometimes keeping up with all these people running for office & those who do get elected along the way, the general public gets bored, confused, exhausted, upset over empty promises by elected leaders or the lengthy process of getting things to move forward and just decide to not get involved or bad mouth the process, creating political apathy within a community.
According to Wikipedia, political apathy, if left uncontrolled, can bring about stagnation to the development of any nation/community. An individual’s political apathy begins with a lack of understanding of politics or government to a certain degree and that makes it more difficult for that individual to see the value in universal suffrage, and to see the benefits and/or costs of new policies that the government places. That makes the individual see it as irrational to gain the knowledge; since (supposedly) there would be no benefit (the individual would see this as rational ignorance). One can measure political apathy in a given culture by the amount of the citizens’ political involvement, knowledge or activity. Political apathy can be seen to some degree in every society. For a nation/community to develop, and to have its laws function to the fullest, there must be a high level of political awareness, such that the ruled and the rulers will serve as a check on one another.
How do we go from political apathy to political activism? A good citizen is one who is politically aware and politically active. When you consider the amount of taxes paid by you as a citizen, don’t you want to know where that money goes and how it is spent? You have worked hard, traded valuable time away from your friends and family to make sure you earned not only enough to sustain your economics but also that of your community and country.
Here are 5 tips to become politically involved without going overboard.
1) Get involved with the local community: Community service should not be for just those seeking office, it should be something we all want to do to improve where we live. Just like growing up we all had chores in the family. Consider you community as your family and the involvement is just an assigned chore. When you join to be a poll official, the board for a neighborhood alliance or a committee appointed by the City Council or a local business chamber you are becoming more aware of community needs & wants, along with the already successes of their efforts. However, if there are things being neglected and they can’t be resolved within the boards, appointments and chambers they can be elevated to the leaders to help decide a direction for all.
2) Get to know the candidates running for office: Are they local? Are they involved? Do they have a political agenda that meets what the community at large is looking for in leadership? If you have questions or concerns about them ask to meet with them or email them questions about their campaign. Have a neighborhood or community forum for the candidates, their participation will show their true colors.
3) Know how, when and where to vote: How to vote starts with voter eligibility. According to the Georgia Secretary of State website to register to vote in the state of Georgia, you must be: A citizen of the United States, A legal resident of Georgia and of the county in which you wish to vote, and at least 17 1/2 years of age. Also, you may not register to vote if you are currently: Serving any sentence imposed by the conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude or judicially determined to be mentally incompetent. You may register to vote at any time, but you must be registered by the close of registration prior to an election if you wish to vote on Election Day, i.e., the application must be postmarked by the voter registration deadline. If you are registering for the first time in Georgia, and you register by mail, you are required to provide ID by one of the following ways: 1) Mail a copy of the identification with your voter registration application 2) Provide a copy of the identification to the registrar before or at the time you cast a ballot. The following types of identification are acceptable:
• Valid Georgia driver’s license
• Valid photo ID card issued by any entity of the State of Georgia, any other state, or the United States
• Valid U.S. passport
• A government employee photo ID
• Valid U.S. military ID card with photo
• Valid Tribal ID with photo
• Current utility bill showing name and address*
• Valid government check or paycheck showing name and address*
• Valid government document showing name and address*
• Current bank statement*
*please note the above identification marked with an asterisk (*) may only be used one time by the first time registered voter. Voting in person after that requires photo identification. Those who are entitled to vote by absentee ballot, under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act are exempt from this requirement. Bank statements are kept private and are not available for public inspection.
The next step is when to vote. Everyone knows that Election Day is the first Tuesday of November each year. On Election Day, you must vote at your assigned precinct and present a photo ID. However, there are special elections that take place throughout the year and those dates are important as well. You can keep up with those at http://www.sos.ga.gov/elections/election_dates.htm . Back to the Secretary of State website any voter registered in Georgia can vote absentee by mail. Just complete and sign the application. Then, mail, fax, email (as an attachment), or drop the application off at your county registrar’s office. We urge you to request your mail-in ballot and get it back to your county registrar’s office as soon as possible. Mail-in ballots can be requested no earlier than 180 days prior to the election and must be received by your county registrar no later than close of the polls on Election Day. There are special provisions for Georgia Military and Overseas Voters that can be found at: www.sos.ga.gov/elections/UOCAVA . Any voter registered in Georgia may vote absentee in person. This allows you to vote on a day and time that is convenient for you. Beginning on the 4th Monday prior to Election Day, simply visit your county or municipality early voting site, fill out the application, and present one of the permitted forms of photo ID. As Election Day approaches, your county may have multiple early voting sites and even extended hours. Some counties offer ballot delivery for registered voters who are hospitalized. Contact your county registrar at least 5 days prior to the election for information regarding this option. Where to vote in your community. This varies from community to community. It also varies when talking about general elections and those municipalities that hold their own elections at City Hall. I have found that communities inside the city limits of small towns hold theirs separate from the general elections. So be sure if you are in the incorporated part of your community you know the different location.
4) Share information with your community. Too many times we don’t get involved but we also don’t share our knowledge. When you share your knowledge and expertise with your community it actually helps with the excitement of others wanting to be involved. Sharing your new knowledge at school events, neighborhood functions and now with the power of emails and social media we can get word out to everyone in our sphere of influence.
5) VOTE. Don’t just take yourself the day of voting; get a group of people encouraged to vote. Take a bus, shuttle or van full of people to the polls. Help the elderly or low income make it to the polls. There are so many ways to get people involved and excited about the day of voting! Have a party and a drop in at your home once your family & friends have cast their ballot. It’s a day of celebration as many countries and communities are led by dictators, so be thankful we have the right to vote. Many people have fought, died and sacrificed much over the centuries to afford you the right as a citizen of America to cast a ballot for someone you elect to represent you and your family. Don’t discard that right or privilege.
This article is sponsored by New Lawrenceville. New Lawrenceville is a FREE networking organization of businesses and volunteers that are working to bring community together. https://www.facebook.com/NEWLawrenceville?fref=ts
Author Rodney Camren helps to lead New Lawrenceville in an effort to promote buying locally, educate the community on issues that affect our community. Rodney Camren is a Real Estate Agent with Keller Wiliams.